City of Thieves

City  of Thieves, by David Benioffcity of thieves

This is a great book for an older teen-age boy who already likes to read. Set during the German siege of Leningrad during the Second World War, this novel requires some prior knowledge in order to understand the story. No explanation is given for communism, bolshevism, the Russian secret police, or why the Germans want Leningrad and how the citizens of Leningrad are managing to resist. The story is simply told as a first-person narrative of a seventeen-year-old boy who was there. He  chose to stay in Leningrad when his mother and sister left even though he knew the Nazis were coming because he wanted to see what he was made of.

He gets that chance. Be warned. This book is not written for children: it is filled with horror, violence, and sex (no teen-aged boy would be interested in these topics, right?) But it is ultimately a deeply thoughtful story about endurance, courage, friendship, loyalty, caring,  and true love, told with a healthy sense of the absurd. The action never lags, and the three main characters are complex and endearing.

 It is a finely written and believable story. Of all the books I have read about the siege of Leningrad, this is the one I have liked the best.

Gaby Chapman

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1 Comment

Filed under 9-12 Grade, Adventure, boys, Enjoyable for parents, Fantastic!, Uncategorized

One response to “City of Thieves

  1. Alix Pitcher

    One of the wonderful things about The City of Thieves is how solidly it is grounded in historical fact. There is an unforgettable scene in which the two young protagonists attempt to buy some eggs at an open air black market. They find themselves lured into an apartment that appears to be full of something no one in Leningrad has seen for months–fresh meat. It is only an closer examination that they realize (almost too late) that the inhabitants of the ghoulish apartment are cannibals. This entire episode is lifted straight out of Harrison Salisbury’s definitive classic The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad.

    During my many years as a bookseller, I always looked for books that could span the largely illusory gulf between books for young adults and “grownup” books. The City of Thieves is a perfect example of a book that could be a springboard to reading about the endlessly fascinating history of Russia.

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